The Best Hotel in Atlanta- Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
When one thinks of a Mandarin Oriental hotel, accordingly, images of Asian hospitality arise. It is after all, a hotel brand that has taken a unique approach to marketing, rallying the endorsements of globetrotting celebrities from Michelle Yeoh to Kevin Spacey to Morgan Freeman. Since childhood, I have been familiar with many Mandarin Oriental properties, including their startling number of truly fantastic restaurants, the masterful blend of East meets West luxury and of course, the heightened focus on gentility towards guests.
In America, there are only a handful of Mandarin Orientals, unfortunate for those of us who are lifelong fans of this iconic brand. The most famous of the US based properties is arguably that of New York City’s- its gleaming glass structure a modern behemoth even in Manhattan. A lesser known gem of the brand sits in Atlanta’s posh Buckhead neighborhood, surrounded by high end shops, a scattering of restaurants and flanked by condos occupied by the city’s affluent professionals.
Our first indication of just how other-worldly the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta is, comes from driving through the secluded portico, a roundabout shared with a high end steakhouse right across the hotel. Front doors open to swaths of marble, towering flower arrangements and modern chandeliers. To the right we find Front Desk and Concierge with a welcome table offering complimentary spa water. To the left of the entrance, a charming sitting area with plush chairs greets us and beyond, sits the hotel’s signature restaurant, casually named The Café and Bar.
Immediately noticeable upon entry is a calming, subtle fragrance lightly wafting through the air, one that signals we are in a wellness/spa focused hotel. Those of you who’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world know exactly what I’m speaking of- no particular discernible fragrance, nothing overpowering, just that touch of je ne sais quoi, deliciously teasing us into inadvertently breathing more deeply and relaxing otherwise tense shoulders from a rough day at work or an even tougher day of domestic travel.
Of the hundreds (no exaggeration here) of hotels I have stayed at throughout the United States, rooms at this luxury hotel in Atlanta are among the largest. If you are traveling with children, shock of all shocks, there is even enough room for little ones to run around a bit. If there is enough room for an adult to do a cartwheel safely in several directions without hitting furniture, I call that pretty spacious.
The rooms, much like the hallways, feature my number one favorite color scheme for homes- a combination of off white/cream with light grey. It’s a dynamite combination that reeks sophisticated charm while remaining modern yet warm. If you’re on Pinterest, you’ll have seen this color scheme as one of the biggest trends in people’s dream home interiors. There’s even a special Benjamin Moore paint section dedicated to that particular scheme of light grey.
A large wooden desk outfitted with all the plugs necessary for conducting your business sits under an equally large Samsung television that conveniently pulls out for when you’re lounging in bed. A big thumbs up to Mandarin Oriental for thinking of ergonomics- those aforementioned plug outlets are tidily built into the desk and closes downward when not in use. No crawling under dusty furniture or squeezing against walls, as is the case with too many hotels, even in this age of ubiquitous technology usage. Until other hotels catch up with this amenity that allows me to not contort my body into yoga poses just to charge my laptop and phone, I’ll give a huge plus to Mandarin for that.
The bed is among the top 3 best hotel beds in America, neck and neck with its sister property in New York and that of The Lodge at Pebble Beach- plush enough to make you wish you could loll around all day but firm enough to properly support and negate any back issues. Once you’ve pulled yourself away from the awesome picturesque window scene while in bed, you can lounge or work comfortably with your laptop from the nearby chair and ottoman complete with side table, all ergonomically correctly designed and placed.
When staying at the very best luxury hotel in Atlanta, there are going to be high expectations for the bathroom and Mandarin Oriental exceeds those expectations. Continuing the marble theme from the lobby, spacious bathrooms are floor to ceiling marble with plenty of vanity space, and that is saying a lot coming from me with my myriad of skincare products. On one side of this long vanity with double sink sits a swivel television larger than a laptop so you can watch your favorite show while taking a hot bath in the deep soaker tub, that is, if you prefer to ignore the huge window overlooking the Atlanta skyline. This is one of the very few hotels in America that gives you a stunning view while enjoying that steamy bath.
If you find yourself at Mandarin Oriental in Atlanta, do try to order room service as you’ll encounter both great food and even better service, both surprisingly, increasingly rare in hotels in the US. If you see a Roasted Chicken option on the menu, that is a must try. When I was there, the exact item was the Springer Mountain Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Creamy Grits, Broccolini and Jus. Those of you familiar with my articles know I am both obsessed with a fantastic roast chicken and extremely hard on restaurants serving it because this is one of my own signature dishes at home. Mandarin Oriental Atlanta has one of the best Roast Chickens in all of Atlanta and I have eaten many a chicken at many a restaurant from Atlanta to Savannah. It’s juicy inside with a crispy, well seasoned exterior, a perfect match with the southern style creamy grits and light jus to dredge it all in.
The hotel’s Peach Cobbler is a solid version; perhaps not as perfect as Grandma’s but to be fair, no hotel or restaurant can compare to Grandma’s cooking.
Also check out the hotel’s Café and Bar where you’ll always encounter local and visiting professionals ranging from engineers to architects to CEOs. If you love grabbing a drink, Mandarin’s cocktails are an absolute must try, available at both the Café and Bar restaurant or at the Taipan lounge. Must tries include the east meets west Matchatini (vodka, matcha powder and fresh cream) and the Georgia Peach (Jasmine vodka, fresh peach purée and fresh lime juice).
One experience you absolutely cannot miss while staying at Mandarin Oriental in Atlanta is their Spa and Pool. The heated indoor pool is simply beautiful and on some evenings, you may just be lucky enough to call it your own. If swimming doesn’t float your boat, go for a dip in the hot tub or clear out those toxins in the steam room or sauna. There are separate facilities for men and women for the hot tub and sauna/steam, both outfitted with luxurious seating areas, plenty of spacious showers and lockers as well as primping tables. The pool, gym and all these facilities are complimentary for Guests.
If you have time, I strongly urge you to experience Mandarin’s Spa, something this brand is world famous for. It is unlike any other spa in the United States, rivaled only by its sister properties, seamlessly blending Asian hospitality with local ingredients. The Spa is a labyrinth of plush lounging areas, seemingly countless treatment rooms, soft robes and fragrant tea, with soothing scents emanating from every nook and cranny. The Peaches and Cream combination is by far one of the best spa offerings in the entire Southeast region of America, with even spas in Florida unable to compete. Your spa therapist starts you off with a tour of the facilities, then patiently explains what your treatment will entail before launching into a charming but brief Asian ritual of ringing miniature bells and washing your feet with floral water, to signify washing away stressful and negative thoughts before the actual treatment.
A thorough exfoliation of the entire body follows, with a hot towel “wash off.” All this happens on a wonderfully heated massage bed. A long full body massage follows using warm peach and cream oil. The scent, like all scents used at Mandarin Oriental, is subtle, beautiful and therapeutic. You will wish this treatment would go on interminably. Finally though, the last step comes with a red clay scalp massage that stimulates tired neck muscles, soothes any scalp issues and moisturizes your hair.
If you are not an overnight Guest at the hotel, you can still partake in the Spa treatments anytime. As a Spa guest, you also have full access to those aforementioned facilities of the hot tub, steam and sauna as well as the plush seating areas with beverages in the spa area. All of you local Atlanta folks should head on over to the Spa for much deserved self care whether for yourself or as a girls’ day, pre-wedding, Mother’s Day and yes, even Father’s Day. There are treatments for everyone and every need.
While all of the above should be enough to differentiate Mandarin Oriental Atlanta from all other luxury hotels in Atlanta, there is much more here than meets the eye.
Here’s the thing: the service isn’t just good. Unfortunately, I fell sick during my last trip there, very sick. During the 36 hours of the worst of my illness, I discovered what Mandarin Oriental meets Southern hospitality is all about. Pretty much confined to the bed during those 36 hours, room service wait staff brought me beverages and food (whatever I could hold down) every few hours. Even one of the Managers and Security staff came over to check on me, making sure I was ok and whether I needed a doctor. They sent staff out to a local pharmacy to get me Vicks Vaporub (the only thing I like when I’m sick). Front Desk staff even called a few times a day to check in on me.
Even Housekeeping came by expressing genuine concern over my well being. None of the kind words or genuine expressions of concern by about a dozen individuals were forced by protocol or fake in any sense. I could tell, even in my sick stupor, these people cared. When I checked out, I noticed the hotel had not charged me for any of the room service on the days I was sick and they definitely did not charge me for the Vicks. A small thing you might think but I can guarantee you that at pretty much every other hotel, they wouldn’t think twice about not only charging for it but upcharging.
I could tell you until I’m blue in the face how Mandarin Oriental’s rooms are far superior to other luxury hotels in Atlanta and you might disagree. I could tell you their Spa experiences are incomparable to any other spa in the region and you might not be sure. I could tell you how cool the indoor pool is but that might not be a big deal to you.
What should matter to all of us though, especially in this day and age of ubiquitous technology, fast paced interactions and a lot of negative things going on in the world, is human decency at its finest. While money can afford you the most luxurious hotel room in the world, money will never buy a hotel staff’s genuine concern for your well being. It is truly remarkable that the staff at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta coordinated information about one sick guest to the point where everyone from wait staff to Manager to Front Desk to bellman all demonstrated the type of kindness, compassion and concern in a manner in which no salary could be enough to support. It’s all in the details, from room service staff placing a flower next to my bed while I was sick to housekeeping bringing me boxes of tissues without being asked, to Managers coming over to make sure I was okay to spa therapists bringing me a second blanket because I was cold and just recovering.
Money may allow you the choice of your luxury hotel in Atlanta but if you care about receiving outstanding, unparalleled service by the finest human beings in hospitality, there is no other choice than Mandarin Oriental Atlanta.
See you at the Café and Bar for a Georgia Peach cocktail.